Wednesday, May 6, 2015

RECAP: Game of Thrones 5x03 - Who Are You Going To Be?

Sorry for not posting last week, dear readers*, but for once I had more important things to worry about in my life than the latest television episodes. Hard to imagine, I know. But I'm back this week and ready to cover some ground. So. Where did we last leave our not exactly heroes?

In episode two we got forward motion on a couple of key plots, while some of the others just treaded water. Most importantly, we found out that Arya was in fact safely in Braavos and that Jon Snow was voted the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. We also got to see more of Daenerys' hold on Meereen soften and a look at the actual internal politics of Dorne, but they didn't actually come up this week. Just keep that in your head for the next episode.

This week was, in a surprising turn so early in the season, all about defining moments. Each of the major storylines featured a character making a choice that would define who they are. In some cases the answer wasn't at all surprising, but in others it really was. And some characters found themselves dragged off the path they were anticipating and taken somewhere else. Quite literally.

We open with Arya's plotline, which sees her now ensconced in the House of Black and White as Jaqen's apprentice. But, to her dismay, she's not immediately learning how to murder people and change her face at will. Instead, she's stuck sweeping the floor (which I'm pretty sure is made of dirt) in a room full of statues of the gods and also this really terrifying well. Anyone who drinks from the well dies. Fun!

At first Arya is all up on her high horse about how Jaqen is supposed to be teaching her but all he's done so far is make her sweep for days, but an alarming and embarrassing encounter with another student reminds Arya that she has no right to demand anything here. Here she is no one, as she said she wished to be. But in order to be no one, she must divest herself of the trappings of Arya Stark. Her clothes, her money, and most of all her sword. A girl named Arya Stark holding Arya Stark's things cannot truly be no one.

So Arya does divest herself. She throws her clothes and her money in the ocean. Only she can't quite bring herself to get rid of the sword. It's her sword, the one Jon gave her the last time she ever saw him, the one she named Needle. So she hides it in the rocks that form a wall by the sea, and covers it up, and so completely fails at becoming no one. But it's good enough. Jaqen will teach her now.

Meanwhile, back in King's Landing, there is a wedding afoot! At long last - at least for Margaery - King Tommen takes his new wife and crowns her Queen Margaery. They are both overjoyed. Tommen is thrilled because he is now married to the most beautiful woman in Westeros and she's really nice to him and has sex with him, and Margaery is ecstatic because she's finally queen and her husband isn't likely to murder her or make her murder someone else or have sex with her brother. All of which are real problems she has faced in the past.

The only one not completely overjoyed about this match is Cersei, who rightly fears that with Margaery officially ensconced as the Queen, her power will be taken from her. It's not paranoia if they are out to get you, and Margaery totally is. She loathes Cersei - which Cersei clearly knows - and is perfectly happy manipulating her new husband into sending his mother back to Casterly Rock to enjoy her old age in peace. Not that Cersei is old, but man does Margaery know how to make her feel like she is.

Still, Cersei isn't down and out yet. She has a trick up her sleeve. When the Order of the Sparrow (that super strict cult that Lancel joined) attack the High Septon at a brothel, Cersei decides to side with the Sparrows. For the record, that's sort of like if a bunch of Franciscan Friars went nuts and nearly beat the Pope to death. It's a big deal. Cersei decides to get rid of the High Septon and make a union she can live with, tracking down the High Sparrow and making it clear that she supports his reforms.

Except for the part where she totally doesn't. Does Cersei really think that Lancel, who is her cousin and who she slept with, won't mention that fact to the High Sparrow? Or the more important fact that Cersei really doesn't repent of it? But Cersei seems confident for now, and this is her defining moment: she will hold onto power with anything in her grasp, even if that means resorting to a union of church and state and pretending to feel bad over stuff she clearly doesn't.

Also she's working on something with her new Master of Whispers (whose name utterly escapes me). The guy was in his lab dissecting rats and then later it seemed like one of his experiments moved. Illegal human experimentation? Curious.

Up North, things are coming to a head in Winterfell again. The Boltons have taken command, but they know full well that they can't keep it for long. I mean, all the other houses hate their guts, and there's only so much you can do by ruling with fear. So they need a new plan, and Roose Bolton has it. His son, the newly legitimized Ramsay, will get a bride. A nice girl from a good family who will cement their place as Wardens of the North. And that girl is...

Sansa Stark! The unluckiest bride in all of Westeros. Seriously, the poor girl. Granted, Sansa is coming into her own as a political mover and I am super excited to see where she goes with it, but damn am I also sure that no one else on this wretched show has had a more unpleasant time of it in terms of romance. I mean, she's now been engaged three times, married once, and the nicest thing any of her "beloveds" has ever done for her is ignore her.


Anyway, Sansa isn't overly thrilled at the news that Littlefinger plans to marry her off to the man who murdered her brother and mother and sister-in-law and niece or nephew, but he convinces her it's the right idea. How? By pointing out that she is now the oldest living Stark, and she has a duty to Winterfell. Besides, wouldn't it be nice to finally go home?

So Sansa agrees, but there's tension there, and when she arrives at Winterfell, sees it teeming with Boltons and nearly burned to the ground, it's clear she has to grit her teeth. The defining moment for her is when Roose Bolton greets her and instead of so clearly slapping him like she wants, Sansa smiles graciously and is every bit the lady they want of her.

What makes this a defining moment isn't that it's a moment where Sansa shows she will always defer to men. Quite the opposite. I see this as a moment when Sansa, like many times before, calculates her risks and advantages and uses them. She knows that she needs to be safe right now more than she needs revenge. 

So she smiles, she plays the fool, and she learns to never trust Littlefinger. And she learns that the North remembers. Because here's the thing: Sansa is now back in Winterfell. There is a Stark in Winterfell. And she belongs there much more than the Boltons do. I wouldn't be shocked if Sansa comes out of this on top.

Also Theon/Reek is there and takes great pains to make sure that Sansa doesn't see him. He's very ashamed, but he also seems to be quite worried for Sansa. After all, his vows of never hurting her to the contrary, Ramsay Bolton is a noted sadist. Who's to say he wouldn't try a hand at torturing his own wife?

Brienne and Podrick, meanwhile, have been tracking Sansa and Littlefinger since they met in the inn. Brienne's figured out where they're going and she knows that they have a little time to catch up. While they go about the road, Brienne and Podrick finally talk about their backstories. How they came to be on this wet, cold road with only the other for company. Podrick explains that his first knight died for a crime that he had technically aided in, and Tywin Lannister freed him. He liked working for Tyrion, but he really likes working for Brienne because she does things and she can fight.

Meanwhile, Brienne explains that she always liked fighting, but she ended up here because she swore an oath to Renly Baratheon. She swore because he was kind to her when he didn't have to be. She never cared that he preferred men, she just liked that he was a good person and she thought he would have made a great king. 

Brienne decides it's high time she trained Pod in the ways of actually being a knight. And she can't knight him, but then she's not a knight herself. As Pod puts it, she can teach him to fight, which is what actually counts.

Even further North, at the Wall, Stannis still really wants Jon to desert the Night's Watch and ride with him to Winterfell. If he does, Stannis will name him "Jon Stark" and make him Lord of Winterfell. It's all Jon ever dreamed of as a child. But Jon is too much Ned Stark's son (if by nurture more than anything else**) and too honorable by half to desert. Especially since he's just been named Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.

And as the Lord Commander, he has to make unpleasant decisions, like what to do with Thorne and his cronies, the men who hate him and will not follow him. Davos suggests he send them far away, but Jon would prefer them close by. Well, some of them. He goes the high road instead of insulting Thorne, and actually gives him a promotion. Thorne becomes First Ranger, a role to which he is well suited. But Ser Jannis, on the other hand, who was weeping and hiding during the battle, has to go. He gives the man a far off assignment and the man refuses.

Of course that can't slide. Jon is the Lord Commander now and, whether they like it or not, his word goes. So after a few minutes of thought and clearing up that Ser Jannis really won't take the position, Jon has him taken outside and put on the block. It then becomes clear to Jannis what is happening. He begs Jon for mercy. Says he takes it all back. And for a long moment it looks like Jon will accept. But then he doesn't. He raises the sword and cuts off Jannis' head.

It's a harsh moment, but a true one. Jannis is a coward, and he will never stop. Jon has solved the problem and also shown that his youth won't make him soft on those who do not respect his orders. It's ironic (intentionally so, I think) that out of all of the men in Westeros who think they should be king, the most kingly one of all is a bastard in the middle of nowhere who refuses to participate in politics. Heh.

Finally, Varys and Tyrion continue their long and grueling journey to see Daenerys in Meereen. But after weeks in the carriage, Tyrion needs to get out. They're thousands of miles from King's Landing - who would know them here? 

Well, apparently a few people. First they run into a Red Priestess preaching to a mob of slaves. She clearly recognizes Tyrion but says nothing. And then, in a whorehouse, he's recognized by none other than Jorah Mormont, the disgraced son of the previous Lord Commander of the Night's Watch and also Daenerys' former first advisor. Jorah's drinking away his troubles and staring at a Dany lookalike whore when he spots Tyrion and, in a moment of hilarious idiocy, knocks him out, gags him, ties him up, and decides to carry him off to Daenerys as an olive branch.

Except Tyrion was going there anyway. Good job, Jorah.

Like I said above, this episode was about each character coming to a breaking point. For Tyrion this point is when he realizes that for all that he made light of his troubles last season and his murdering Shae, he's not over it. Not by a long shot. And it seems like maybe Tyrion wants a chance to be a better man than he has before. Meanwhile, Cersei is going to cling to power if it kills her, Arya isn't willing to completely let go of the past, Sansa is the best political operator Westeros has ever seen, and Jon is noble to a fault. Oh, and Brienne and Pod are adorable.

Gosh I wonder what they're going to make of all of this next episode.

*On a complete side note, I need a better name to call you guys. What do you think? Chickadees? Lambs? Fellow humans? Maybe I'll do another poll.

**Yes, I am a R + L = J conspiracy theorist. Pretty sure it's basically canon at this point, right?


  1. He goes the high road instead of insulting Thorne, and actually gives him a promotion. Thorne becomes First Ranger, a role to which he is well suited.

    Good call on John's part there. Thorne has too many friends, may well be a good First Ranger, and is likely to respect a Lord Commander who puts that role above his personal enmities.

    Fuck Jannis though, seriously.

    First they run into a Red Priestess preaching to a mob of slaves.

    Hm, I wonder if she's one of those who's now getting powers like that guy who could resurrect people, to Melissandre's dismay. (I can't help noting that his recent acquisition is suspiciously close to Dany's dragons hatching).

    1. Exactly! I wouldn't be surprised if Thorne slowly becomes one of Jon's bigger supporters. I mean, obviously not the biggest supporter. That is and will always be Sam's job.

      Samwell Tarly, President and Founder of the Jon Snow Is My Lord and I Will Follow Him Anywhere Fight Me On This Club.

      I wondered about that too. My thinking is that the Lord of Light is somehow linked to the dragons. Is a dragon? Is Drogon? It would explain a lot. Not least of all why Melisandre and the other Red Priestess are so interested in greyscale. I love this sideplot!